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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Dec 2014

Kolkata's Underbelly: Iqbals and Mukhtars ‘assets’ for political parties

Soumen Datta and Ravik Bhattacharya, Hindustan Times  Kolkata, February 16, 2013
First Published: 12:55 IST(16/2/2013) | Last Updated: 13:13 IST(16/2/2013)

The Garden Reach area on the south-western fringes, often called the underbelly of Kolkata, has always made and unmade mainstream politicians.

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The present furore over the murder of a policeman and the subsequent transfer of police commissioner Ranjit Pachnanda has largely to do with the faceoff between the state’s powerful municipal affairs minister Firhad Hakim, an MLA from the area, and the police chief over Mohammed Iqbal, the Trinamool borough chairman and a known tough who many believe was instrumental in Hakim’s electoral victory from the area.

But why blame only Firhad Hakim? Political parties of all hues have over the years patronized such names as Mohammed Iqbal, alias Munna, and Mukhtar to retain their hold over the area.

No wonder then that both Iqbal and Mukhtar, owing allegiance to the Congress, are yet to be arrested over the killing of the policeman even though their names figure prominently in the FIR filed by the police.

“This is a tradition followed since the Left regime. Who was Kalimuddin Shams? The police commissioner acted against us and was overzealous. Iqbal is more precious than the police commissioner. The police will get their hands on him only if the political leadership wants that. One must remember that they are political figures and have supporters. They are the backbone of any party in the area. What are we without them?” said a senior Trinamool Congress leader who did not wish to be named.

Sources told HT that Iqbal will surrender, or will allow himself to be arrested, once the green signal from his immediate party boss comes. Both Mukhtar and Iqbal were seen giving interviews to television channels on Wednesday and Thursday, despite the massive police hunt for them.

Union minister and Congress leader Adhir Choudhury slammed the state government on Friday for removing the police commissioner. “Pachnanda would have unearthed the Trinamool-backed mafia raj in Garden Reach that was behind the killing of policeman Tapas Chowdhury. That is why he was removed,” Adhir Choudhury said. But he was silent over Mukhtar, the Congress equivalent of Iqbal.

It was names like Mogol —he was the elder brother of Iqbal —- who controlled the Garden Reach area in 2002, running an elaborate extortion network and running businesses like supplying contract workers to the port.

After the Trinamool Congress came into power, the mafia got into the illegal construction business. Three syndicates are now operating in these areas — those controlled by Mohammed Iqbal, Mukhtar and Trinamool Congress councillor Samsuzzaman Ansari. Since these names hand out work to the youths in the locality, they all command a sizeable following.


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